James Victore’s “Celebrate Columbus” poster.
Except these students were asked to carry those labels around for everyone but themselves to see and judge. The project was part of Sticks + Stones, a multi-university
By creating an atmosphere where students discuss hottopic issues such as race and learn firsthand from a diverse group of peers, Sticks + Stones aims to produce knowledge-
initiative that gathered students from different parts of
able and responsible designers who can see when their
the world and challenged them to reconsider their percep-
own personal biases leak into their work (“Navigating
tions about the “other” while at the same time educating
them about the importance of meaning in visual language.
Buck-Coleman also pointed to the Power in You 2005
The course, which won the Core 77 Design Education
campaign in her essay “In Pursuit of Undermining
Initiative Award, dissected the responsibilities of the
Stereotypes.” The program, created by W Communications
designer in today’s changing global climate (Core 77).
for Utah’s first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman, featured 175
Audra Buck-Coleman, assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and one of the project’s main investigators, said the goal of the project is to correct
billboards with single-word labels such as “Ghetto,” “Failure,” “Slacker” (Stewart). The billboards were meant to make the residents uncom-
visual misconceptions and unintended use of stereotypes
fortable yet curious. The campaign also featured a series
and produce designers with strong ethical values.
of back-to-back 15-second spots that showed students with
Sticks + Stones started in 2005 as a collaborative project
labels stuck on their foreheads going about their daily
between four U.S. universities and brought together
campus activities. After four weeks, Kaye Huntsman
75 students, each of whom carried their own set of values
publicly removed one of the labels in an effort to get others
regarding race, sexual orientation and religion. The
involved. And the final 15-second spot showed students
curriculum was based on the stereotypes each student
shedding their labels as well (Workhappens.blogspot.com).
held about his or her fellow classmates, with the ultimate goal of broadening each student’s view (“Navigating Cross-Cultures”). Designers have been using visual language as a means to communicate both positive and negative messages.
“I pulled junior high and high school kids together and asked them what types of labels they face. They suggested putting these words out there to say, ‘Let’s get rid of them,’ ” Huntsman said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. While generating buzz, the campaign also alarmed
Design luminaries such as James Victore, Seymour Chwast
caregivers who treat those with substance abuse issues.
and Tibor Kalman have addressed racism, tolerance and
Other residents complained that the ads were directed
ethics in their work. The Nazi party, however, used design as
at them. For instance, one billboard with the single word
means to oppress and divide its citizens during World War II. Sticks + Stones educators believe it is important that students realize the power of design (Desert News, “Weber State Students”).
“Ghetto” was located near a trailer park and was removed following complaints (Stewart). While creating buzz can lead to awareness, it’s something that also needs to be done with care.